Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Birthdays and Getaways

June has flown by in the blink of an eye or more like the pop of a wine bottle!  We celebrated a couple of birthdays this past week, our neighbor Lina 's and my BFF Katy's.  Lina and Shawn had us over to their house for some seriously good eats that included duck breasts, salad, and a savory bread pudding.
Shawn is a really good cook and they are super cool, we feel pretty lucky to have such great neighbors!  For dessert my sister and I cooked up some mini flourless chocolate cakes using this recipe, it was very simple and turned out great.  Since we baked our individual cakes in small 6 oz ramekins we halved the recipe and the baking time.

I have known Katy for about 20 years, we went to elementary, jr high, high school, and even college together!!  Leaving Chicago was really difficult to do because we left behind many great friends including Katy BUT she is moving to California this Fall and I couldn't be happier : )  To celebrate her 30th birthday she came out here with her boyfriend Kris to spend the week exploring SF and then heading to Napa for the weekend.

I love having visitors because it gives us the opportunity to check out a lot of the SF sites that we have yet to see.  After walking around the embarcadero and dinner in the Marina we went to Bourbon and Branch for a unique bar experience, the bar brings you back to the Prohibition era when the actual location acted as a speakeasy from 1921-1933.  The ambiance is romantic and mysterious, expect dim lighting and delicious hand crafted cocktails, my favorite is the Lime Ginger.  I suggest making a reservation so that you can sit in the Russells Room, when you do so they give you a password to get in, ours was Spoon.  I'm not afraid to admit that I geeked out a bit over our password : )

The following day we went hiking near Baker Beach where we had a lovely little picnic on top of an old military bunker and soaked in the sun, we even saw dolphins!
 How insanely gorgeous are these panoramic photos that Wren took, I love this city!!

Next we headed up to Napa for a weekend filled with wine, food, and more wine!  We checked out Franciscan where I picked up a really nice bottle of Syrah Rose.  The following days we did Robert Mondavi which has a wonderful tour and beautiful grounds.
The birthday girl and I
I was in heaven!

The Hess Collection which showcases not only their wine but also a really unique collection of artwork.

 and Castello di Amorosa (Castle of Love) which you will fall in love with because it is GORGEOUS!  I took a gajillion photos of the castle but here are just a few.  Also if you go there you must sample the Gioia wine (it's named after me or so I like to think, this is the Italian way of spelling my name) it is was named so because the queen thought the gorgeous deep magenta hued wine was a "jewel" and must be included in the collection.  The castle has a really pretty church, cellar caves, and even a torture chamber!
 I loved all of the doors!!
 Recently my vision has been blurry so my doc prescribed me these wine glasses ; )
 Wren says this picture is ridiculous (and I agree) but no one will read this anyway so I should be safe, I think I embarrass him quite often.

We were sad to say goodbye to Katy, Kris, the Kays, and Beth but we took the opportunity to explore the non-wine side of Napa with a hike through Bothe state park.
 We hiked
 waded through the creek
 and had a wonderful picnic beneath the trees

We love Napa and since it's only an hour away we love it even more, I expect there will be many more Napa adventures to come.  The best part of it all is that Katy and Kris will be able to join us, booyah!!

I got this awesome dolphin fountain for Katy for her birthday, she loves dolphins!  Ok so not really but that would have been pretty sweet.

Whats the craziest gift you have ever gotten or given??

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